The show starts with four actors announcing that there will be no play, no story and no performance. By questioning the essence of a theater performance, the show breaks every theatrical convention: the distinction between actors and the audience, the space between the stage and the seats, and the definition of right or wrong. Then actors start to point fingers at and insult the audience, making the observers aware of themselves that they are part of the show.
This is what happened in Daehangno Wednesday at Studio 76, which staged the Korean language adaptation of playwright Peter Handke's 1966 anti-play "Offending the Audience". The 2007 Korean version of the avant-garde play has been updated by rap vocals that made the house full of provocative, abusive language and unexpected embarrassment.
What makes the drama more noticeable is that it is the first production by Yang Dong-geun
, successful actor and also a popular hip hop singer in the country.
Debuting in 1987 with the TV drama "Tapri", Yang gained popularity among youngsters in recent years as he turned to a singing career with his hip hop album "Yangdongkeun A.K.A Madman" in 2003. At the same time, he demonstrated his acting talent through a number of films, such as "Address Unknown
" (2001), "Fighter in the Wind
" (2004) and "Monopoly"
The versatile celebrity didn't stop there. He also made his debut on stage with "Offending the Audience" in 2005. Yang, who thinks the play made him understand the meaning of being on the stage, said he never planned to become a producer.
"I was asked to take a part in the drama as a music director at the beginning. But regardless of my intention, it just happened like that", said Yang during a news conference held after the two-hour show.
Speaking like a surrealist, Yang continued to give an obscure answer. "I sometimes don't know why I am Yang Dong-geun
and also (in this way) I don't know why I am a producer. But the show gave me a chance to interact with actors and staff members of the play. I was more nervous than the other actors right before we staged the drama", said Yang, clumsy in speech and an unlikely celebrity figure wearing his ragged khaki T-shirt and blue jeans.
Yang, known as a person against affectation and social norms, apparently delivered his thoughts through the show.
Yang inserted some controversial scenes such as depicting Hanwha Group chairman Kim Seung-youn exercising violence against six bar employees and Cho Seung-hui committing the deadliest shooting rampage at Virginia Tech.
It was quite understandable why he decided to put the scene into the drama when regarding the art as a medium that can break the existing norms, not as a subject to entertain. But at the same time, it seems too much when seeing the actors saying "I forgive you" after the scene in which the killer shot himself dead.
"I know that there are people who never can forgive Cho for what he did, but I wanted to show that there are also some people who want to understand the killer. The scene gives plenty of space and time for us to think, but I think, it is the role as an artist to portray various aspects of the world", said Yang with a bitter smile.
Gi Guk-seo, artistic director of the drama also agreed with his idea and tried to convince the audience that the nature of the drama deals with controversial issues of the present times. According to the artistic director, the theater has been staging the drama over 30 years and has been reflecting the thoughts of the times. "And those two issues are something that need to be discussed. That is why we put scenes during the show", added Gi.
The Korean language adaptation of "Offending the Audience", is currently hitting the stage at Studio 76 in Daehangno, downtown Seoul, until July 29. It continues its show at Club Velvet Banana located near Hongik University.
Ticket prices are 20,000 for teenagers, 25,000 for college students and 30,000 for adults.
For more information and performance schedule, call (02) 764-3076 for Daehangno performances or (02) 322-1901 for Hongdae performances.
By Cho Chung-un